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Designing Monograms

Lesson 3 of 5

Traditional Monogram Design

Khara Plicanic

Designing Monograms

Khara Plicanic

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Lesson Info

3. Traditional Monogram Design

Lesson Info

Traditional Monogram Design

Let's talk about doing a traditional monogram. So, we'll group these. I'm just going to build all of these in the same space, so we have easy comparison if we need to. So, when you're making a traditional monogram, it often is enclosed in something like a wreath, or even just a circle, there is a lot of different ways you can do it. So, I happen to have this collection of vector graphics, these wreaths that I got from, of course, Creative Market. And I think for this example, I was going to use this one right here. So, I'm in Illustrator right now. But you can also open this in Photoshop, but it's just a little bit easier to grab it coming from Illustrator. So, I'm just using the selection tool right here. You don't have to be panicked if you're not familiar with Illustrator. If you can just grab the selection tool, you can make this work. So, I'll select the frame that I want right here, and I'm just going to copy it by pressing Command or Ctrl+C, and then I'll bop back over to Photos...

hop. And I'm bopping, by the way, by pressing Command or Control+tab. So, that's letting me bounce around between my programs. I always, before I became a presenter, I used to wonder, how did they switch around so easily? That's how you do it if you don't have a doc open down here. So, I'm just going to paste this in by pressing Command or Ctrl+V, and now, I'm getting to choose how I want to paste this. As a smart object, or as pixels. I can use this as a path or shape player. In this case, I'm going to go with Smart Object, and that allows me to make changes to this later. So, the smart object is going to embed this document in the file basically. And we can scale it without worrying about pixelation, or anything because of course, this is vector. So, I'll go ahead and commit it. And now, we have this fun little wreath. And I'm going to add some type in here. So whatever our pretend initials are going to be JMR. And now, I want to choose a font for this. So, we'll go with something different. And the one that I did in my mockup than I made here is a font called Horse Wallop. And when I was building this, building the resource guide and putting the links in everything, I couldn't find the link to Horse Wallop anymore. I don't know what happened to it. I don't know if it has a new name, or it's been retired. It's another one from Nicky Laatz over at Creative Market, and I don't know what happened but it was gone. So, I think I made a substitute. When did I save it for substitute? Oh, Fontbox Shoestrings Short would be another one. This one here, that might make a good substitute if you were really having your heart set on that. But when you do these traditional monograms like this, the center character is made larger. So, to do that, I'm just going to highlight just that center character. There we go. And I can come up here in the type options, and what's really fun about Photoshop, and I wish that the other Adobe programs had this feature, is this ability to scrub. So, I can come in here and select a preset size, or I could type something in, or I could just put my cursor on top of the Ts right here, and I get this double headed arrow, and that's going to allow me to click and just drag. And that is what I usually end up doing more often than anything else because I don't know off the top of my head what number, size font that I want. So, I'm going to drag that up a little bigger. And now, of course, if we look at this, the M is bigger and I think the size is going to be good. But it still has the same baseline as the other letters. So, if I want to adjust that baseline, I need to open up another panel because I don't have any options up here that's going to let me do that. So, I'm going to come up here to my character panel. If I click this button, and I'm getting, oh, I've got to rearrange my panels here. Let's pull it out, and tuck that away. There we go. So, now we see some additional options for how we can edit our type. And here, I can make an adjustment to the baseline shift. So, I can take the baseline and basically move it down for just this letter. And that is what's going to make it so that it's centered vertically in between the other two characters that it's with. And when I'm happy with it, I'll go ahead and just commit that. So, I have something like that. And this would be great. I think if we wanted to keep this black and white, we could go ahead and do that. But just for fun, we're going to play around with color a little bit because we can, because it's Photoshop and we have some really cool brushes and fun things. And also, too, sometimes, you're going to have different versions of your logo. You're going to have maybe a black and white one, and then something else that if you wanted to put it in a product, or use it as your signature, you might want some color. So, I'm going to Command or Ctrl+click to add a blank layer underneath this wreath. And I'm going to grab my brush tool. And let's have a little bit of a lesson about brushes because I find that people are often unfamiliar with some of the awesome things that are waiting for you in your brush panel. Of course, you're probably familiar with being able to change your hardness or softness of your brush. So, you can do that of course here. You can do that here by adjusting this slider, or this slider. But it's really best done with your keyboard to adjust size and hardness. So, on my keyboard, I'm going to use my left or right bracket keys to change the size of my brush. Those are the keys that are next to the letter P on your keyboard. So, I might choose something like this. And of course, I'll come get a color over here. And I'm actually going to choose two colors. So, if we wanted this to be green like a wreath, I'm going to choose maybe a couple of different greens. Maybe this green here, and then I'll Command or Ctrl+click to select another color. In this case, a yellow. And that will put it in my background. So, just a single click, loads it as your foreground swatch and a Command or Ctrl+click, will make it your background swatch. So, the reason I'm choosing two colors is because I'm going to show you how to tweak your brush settings, so that you can blend those colors as you are painting, which can have a really cool effect on what you're doing. So, if I paint with it now, I just get whatever color is my foreground swatch, or if I press X, I can exchange those colors, and then I'm going to get the yellow. But if I want them to interact together, then I'm going to open this panel here. This is my brush presets, or my brush panel. And I can come in, and what I want to do is come down here to color dynamics. And I can change right here where it says foreground and background jitter. It's currently set to zero. So, that means there's no jittering. Jittering is just like the dance when you do the jitterbug, you kind of go back and forth. So, it's kind of like that, and if you adjust the jitter, that's going to allow the colors that come out of your brush as you're painting, they're going to bounce back and forth between your foreground and background but also everything in between. So, you also get the gradient shades that would be created as well. But before we do all this, let's change our brush tip actually, and I think we're going to switch. Besides all of the ones that are included here, we also can come over and load an assortment of different brushes. And these are not extras. These are not things that I've bought separately. These come with Photoshop. So, from the brush right here, with the brush tool active, you come up here and click right here, and then you click this gear icon and you have a whole assortment of brushes you probably never knew existed. And some of them are really, really cool. The ones that we're going to use in this case, I'm going to go with the wet media brushes down here. So, when I click, it's going to ask me if I want to replace the brushes that I have, which you can still get them back. So don't panic. It's not deleting them. It's just putting them in your off-season closet. Or I can append, which will just add them to the long list. And in this case, that's what I'm going to do just so I have what I need for teaching but normally at home, I would click OK to replace them. But I'll just click there. And now, we see all these brushes loaded at the bottom here. We have like a drippy water brush. And you can see that they make very different kinds of texture. The one that I thought we would play with is called the Watercolor Surface brush maybe. Or maybe that was in a different set. Watercolor, textured surface, I think that's what I meant. So this makes a mark like this. And you can see too that they have some presets mixed in with them about how they blend with other paint and other layers, et cetera. So, I do like the stripy one but we'll go with this for right now. And now we're going to tweak it and make it jitter with the colors. Okay? So we've chosen this preset. Now I'm going to click this panel here that's got all these brushes on it to bring this back up, and I'm going to click color dynamics. So within this brush panel, we have a lot of different tabs I guess you would say, or sub-panels that we can control how this brush behaves. And in this case, I just want to tweak the color dynamics. So I'm going to come over and make sure that there's a checkmark there and I'll come up here and I want the foreground and background jitter to be 100%. And that will give Photoshop free reign to go back and forth between the foreground and the background color and anywhere in between. So that means if I had like red and yellow, then my brush would end up painting with red and yellow and all shades of orange in between. So it can be a really cool way to get a pretty neat effect. If you wanted to let Photoshop go all over the place in terms of color, you could also increase your hue jitter. That means it's going to just go all over the rainbow, it's going to go all around the circle. So I'm going to leave that off for right now because I just want it to do the foreground and background jitter. And I'm going to uncheck apply per tip, and I can show you the difference in a minute. Okay, let's make a clean background for this. If I wanted to, I could put a selection around this wreath so that the paint would all stay within the leaves but I like this wreath because it has more of an organic look and I want to keep that. So, I'm going to actually just pretend like I am a kid coloring in a coloring book and I'll paint sort of within the lines and we'll just see how it goes. So I'll put my cursor here and I'm just going to start painting, and we see, we're not seeing a lot of green, are we? Here we go. It's really favoring, maybe I didn't pick very different colors. Let's make this a little more green. There, we're getting some of it. So as I'm painting, it's changing colors, and the way this brushes built, the presets that go along with it, is it's also layering on top of itself and we can kind of see the other layers underneath so it's not just flat painting over one color over another. So if I pick up my brush and then come back again, it actually builds on the paint that was already there. So it creates kind of a neat. I'm not even being very careful with this and that's kind of the fun of it. It helps, in this case, you may have noticed that I'm painting with a tablet and these tablets range in price from affordable to really expensive. And I have another one at home that I bought years ago that's really big, but I have found that I love this little size the best because I can throw it in my laptop bag. I mean, I even take this with me when I'm at Starbucks, planning a course, and I'm designing all the stuff. I'm hanging out at Starbucks with my tablet because it's just so much easier to use for this kind of stuff and anything that's like painteree or if I'm making even like, I don't know. I use it for everything in Photoshop. Anytime I'm going to be doing anything more than just like type, I'm having my tablet but it's not a requirement. Obviously, this functions just the same without it in this case, but there are some neat features the tablet is pressure sensitive. And I don't think this model but if you spend more, you can get ones that are also like tilt sensitive so your brush can actually react. If you are a painter for example, you can really get the feel of painting like you would because it will mimic the angle and the pressure and all of that kind of thing. So there we have just a simple little design with some fun color and it looks like water color in the way that it layers up on itself. And we have a nice color shift between our foreground and background colors and it's just a fun simple thing. And if you were making this for a client and maybe they weren't set on colors, it would be really easy to change this for like a mockup. It'd be really easy to adjust this by just adding a hue-saturation adjustment layer. So, at the bottom of the layers panel, I call it the yin/yang button. It is not really a yin/yang, but it looks like it's sort of. So it's a circle that's half black, half white and if you click on it, you get all these adjustments that you can apply that are nondestructive. So, we can tweak them as much as we want and we never have to worry that we've hurt or lost our original information. So I can come in here and grab this hue slider and tweak this in a bunch of different ways or adjust the saturation whatever and I can see like maybe they want more of an autumn look to their color scheme. Maybe this is for a wedding and they want something fall-ish, or maybe it's going to be more spring-ish, or whatever. So it's really easy to tweak and play with using adjustment layers. We had a question about the Smart Object. Why would you do a Smart Object? What's the advantage of a Smart Object. Yeah, that is a great question. So why would we do this as a Smart Object. Well, for one thing, if this graphic, if I bop back over here, if this graphic had color and stuff in it or a lot of different components and I pasted it in as pixels, it would all change and just be like a single color and you would lose a lot of the whole reason you went to get the graphic in the first place. But the advantage of a Smart Object is one, that it's going to remember, in this case it's vector so it's kind of a moot point, but if this had been a raster file or something made of pixels, when you convert it to a Smart Object, you maintain that information. So, for example, let me think how I can do this. Let's take this and we'll paste it as pixels just to show you the difference. We'll hide all this for a minute. So, I'll paste this and I will just choose pixels. So, now it's not going to be vector, it's just going to be pixels. So we'll say, okay, and you'll notice that it comes in here and this is the 100% size, essentially. So if I scale this, let's commit it first I guess. We'll commit it. So this would basically be the only size I could use this at, because this is the size that it is. If I press Command or Ctrl+T to put transform around it, we see that this is its 100% size. So if I scaled it smaller for some reason, let's say. And then we're using this, I don't know, maybe we're going to like make a little Olympic logo, I don't know, whatever we're doing. Let's say we make it smaller and then we later decide, oh, actually, I want it big again. Now if I press Command or Ctrl+T, it doesn't say that it's 30% of its original size, this is its new size. This new smaller size is now 100% of the size. So, we're really limited with that. Where as with a Smart Object if we go back, this one is our Smart Object and we know that it's a Smart Object because it has this little icon on the layer itself, so that indicates that it's a Smart Object. And now if I press Command or Ctrl+T to transform it, we see that it says it's 160% of its size. But if I scale it down. Make it tiny, so 19% of its size, and then I commit it, and then I decide, oh, now it to be big again. Now, it still says it's only 19% of its size. It doesn't say that's the new 100%. So, that's what a Smart Object does. Let me undo this because now I just now I just offset it from our paint. But the other thing that's nice about Smart Objects is because they're embedded in the file, I don't have to worry about maintaining this Illustrator file. So, it's different if you've ever used InDesign. InDesign links to any files that you place into it, which is awesome in many ways, but also as you find out when you're building presentations, and you think you have all your files, and then you try to export if you don't have everything where you thought you had it, it's going to throw you errors and tell you that you're missing files. But in Photoshop, with Smart Objects, that doesn't happen because the file gets embedded in this document. So, even if I threw away the Illustrator file, if I want to edit this, I can just double click it and it will open- Where is it. There it is. It'll open just this as its own file now. And the in Illustrator, so it maintains the Illustrator file, but it's not connected to the original file that I started with. And we'll learn about this more in the mock-up class because Some Objects play a really big role in building mock-ups because when you're transforming, if you're mocking up like a prospective object for example, you're mocking up like a shirt that's laying at a perspective, you can just adjust or distort the Smart Object once, and then anything that you put in there, it remembers the distortion that is applied and it'll apply it to any designs that you put. So, it's really smart in that sense. We'll see that leaders so that'll make a little bit more sense. But, if I update that file- where did I go. If I go back. Let's say, I select this in Illustrator, just to show you I guess how this works. So, if I select this in Illustrator, let's say that I change the color to orange or something, and then I save this. So, all I have to do now in Illustrator is save this. With a Commander or Ctrl+S and then close it. And if I go back to Photoshop, it updates. So, basically saves this file within the PSD and then it just like keeps track of the fact that it's an Illustrator file and you can edit it over there in Illustrator and it will refresh here in Photoshop. The plenty of the two colors. Could you do like a texture paint with that? Maybe a silver and gold glitter together? Yeah, and there's a couple different ways that you can do this. You could, obviously, you might want to create separate layers and layer some silver paint, and then some gold glitter, or whatever, however you want to do it. You might want to do it in separate layers, but just so everybody knows, if this suits your needs, there is an option here to have a dual brush. So, you can actually have brushes, like two brushes together, and I actually did this in the brush class that I taught. It was a while ago so I don't remember exactly what I did but we made a custom brush that utilized a text brush that I mean that looked like a newspaper print and we layered that with another brush that was like a heart shape. And so, when you used it, you got a heart shaped newspaper print stamp and it was really cool. So, you can use this in a lot of different ways. But, that's what the dual brush lets you do. And there's also a texture option. So, you can add right here. There's a lot of texture patterns that come standard with Photoshop. Of course, you can also buy them. There are also a ton you can find for free. For whatever reason people are happy to share their texture patterns. I mean, you can make your own. It's so simple. You can go... In fact, I just shot something the other day that I thought, I want to use. I'm going to add it to the mock-ups thing. Remind me. But you can just take a picture of like cement, a close up of cement, or a brick, or a wood plank, or anything, and use it as texture. And you can load that into a pattern in Photoshop. So, there are some that are already built in here and if you choose them and then apply them here, add them, you can have that come in your brush. So, I really encourage people to play around in their brushes panel. You have to be persistent because, of course, when you're first doing it and even still after all these years, you make, at least I do. You make a lot of what I call refrigerator art. And it really looks like preschool fun stuff, but you learn so much stuff and it's incredible. And the things that you'll find and the way that you'll come up with how to apply it will be amazing. And then, I hope you share it and tag me on Instagram or something so I can see all the cool things that you make. But that's all here within this brush panel. So, you have just to recap because it's a lot. You have brushes, right? And there's preset brushes and what makes a brush, a brush. What makes one brush different from another brush is really just the different settings that are here. So, when you're choosing a brush you're choosing the shape of like the brush or your cursor, really. But then, everything else about that brush is here in the brush panel. So, it might have a texture added. It might be having a second brush applied with it. It might have funky color dynamic stuff happening. That's what all those that even the glitter brushes we looked at them of course the other day. They are all just settings here and then they're applied with a pattern, for example. So, you can really play and have some fun over here. But I was going to show you the color dynamics. If you turn on apply per tip, and then, you paint, you get a different effect. Where you see the color, I mean, that really looks like a tie dye sort of a thing. You get that color happening per, they say per tip, that means like per instance of the brush, right? Because when you make a brush stroke, we are clicking and dragging, but the paint is coming out in like multiple dots that are all strung together. And so, that's what they're calling per tip. And so, if you turn that on, the color is going to change with every little tip of the brush. So, it creates a different effect which can be pretty cool. Otherwise, the way that I was using it, I had apply per tip turned off and that's why we had like one solid color until I pick up my brush and then I paint again, I get a slightly different color, but I have to pick up the brush every time to make it new. So, that's what that means, the per tip. And you'll see that with a lot of different settings. You can apply per tip or per like stroke Is how I think of it, anyway. So, pretty cool stuff. So, I encourage you to play. Like I said, there's the ones that are loaded by default, but everybody has, if you click that gear, everyone has this whole collection of other brushes that come with Photoshop. So, you don't have to be stuck with your default ones and you can play and try all these other things and then if you're like, oh my gosh, I just want my normal brushes. All you have to do is say reset brushes and you'll get the defaults back. So, there is really no reason not to come and play. I mean, there's faux finished brushes. It's so fun. You can just do a lot of neat stuff. So, that's why there's a whole class on brushes.

Class Description

It's hard to come up with a logo when looking at a blank slate. Using your initials as a starting point is a great solution! This is called a monogram. 

Whether it’s for personal or professional use, this class will teach you how to create a monogram that involves letters, shapes, and flourishes. She will then show you how to code it into your email signature (the modern-day letterhead), and give recommendations for other branding use cases. 

Using Photoshop, Khara will cover three styles of monograms in this beginner-friendly class. Previous Photoshop experience not required.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.0.1

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Monograms Resource Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



I love this teacher! She is funny, her classes are easy to follow and this one is no exception. In this class, the teacher present 4 different monograms and we are then invited to create our own using these techniques. The steps are easy to follow and give awesome results!

Mimi Cu

The teacher was very clear and funny. She made the class very enjoyable.


Very informative and there is always something new to learn from Khara. She's awesome and she explains things and deliver information in a simplistic way. I really recommend this class and any class that Khara teaches.